When the Buffalo Bills brought defensive end Shaq Lawson back to Buffalo on a one-year free-agent contract this past March, fans were glad to see a player with his energy back in the fold. They remembered the juice and enthusiasm he brought to Buffalo’s defense during his first stint in town after being a first-round pick in 2016 out of Clemson. And while he never developed into an elite pass rusher off the edge for the Bills, that didn’t stop the discussions from being meaningful as to whether or not the team should have re-signed him the offseason he departed for the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins on a three-year, $30 million contract.
But after one season in Miami and one with the New York Jets, few were expecting a bounce-back season to this degree with the Bills in 2022.
Lawson has registered a pressure on 8.4% of his pass-rush snaps in 2022, per Pro Football Focus. He has five quarterback hits in 11 games played. Out of 127 run-defense snaps, he has nine stops (7% stop percentage, second on the team) and is fourth-best on the Bills’ defense in missed-tackle rate (a metric that hasn’t been favorable overall for the team’s defense under head coach Sean McDermott) at 10.5% among defenders with 10 or more tackles.
After a down year in New York, where he only converted 5.9% of his pass-rush snaps into pressures, and registered only three quarterback hits in 17 games while making only 15 solo tackles, Lawson has beaten or is on pace to beat every single one of those marks in his first year back with Buffalo. He’s been a meaningful part of the defensive line rotation, and it can be argued that he’s been the third-best edge rusher on the team this year while the Bills wait for steps forward from Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa.
Shaq is back, and he’s been a piece that mattered for Buffalo’s defense in 2022. Jon Bon Jovi has been wrong about a lot of things as it relates to the Bills, but he was right when he opined in song that you may, indeed, be able to go home.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!